United Now Allowing Free Changes On All Flights (For Travel Through April 30, 2020)

Filed Under: United

It looks like Delta has pressured United into doing the right thing (which isn’t a first).

United waiving change fees on previously booked tickets

United has just announced that they’re waiving change fees for all tickets issued before March 2, 2020, for travel between March 9 and April 30, 2020.

Customers who will benefit from this policy can rebook for travel through December 31, 2020, or within 12 months of the original date of ticket issue, whichever is earlier.

How United’s previous waived change fee policy worked

Prior to this announcement, US carriers have been using waived change fees as a sales technique. They’ve only applied this on newly booked tickets as a way of boosting bookings, rather than applying it to those with previously issued tickets.

Arguably those with previously booked tickets need the help most, given that many of them are traveling right now, and dealing with a lot of uncertainty. But of course being kind to those who already purchased tickets doesn’t do much for airlines, as they see it…

In the case of United, they’ve been waiving change fees for all tickets booked between March 3 and March 31, 2020. This has applied to all fare types, and has allowed customers to rebook on other flights within 12 months.

With this new policy even tickets booked before March 3 are covered, assuming you travel by April 30, 2020 (though I imagine that date has the potential to be extended, assuming Delta extends it).

I of course understand airlines are being hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, but sometimes you just have to do the right thing and take care of customers.

Bottom line

I’m happy to see that United is following Delta here and introducing this policy. It still doesn’t make up for their outrageous, punitive, new schedule change policy (the airline has backtracked on this slightly).

Still, this is good for consumers, and is the right policy.

  1. United is not even embarrassed anymore to be widely known as Delta copycat. Can they make a single good decision that was not already made by Delta?

  2. But if I understand correctly, the change fees will be waived, but differences in fares will still apply. If the fare goes up, you will have to pay more, possibly a lot more. And if the price has dropped, you won’t get a refund.

  3. It’s not enough. US airlines should offer refunds for those who want to cancel, not just let people rebook for a later flight.

  4. United was panned across the internet for their decision.

    It comes down to which airline can sustain a significant reduction in cash to allow customers to make their own best choices.

    While American has debt up to its eyeballs and United already had a massive capex plan for 2020, Delta is very likely in the best position financially to do what is right and will likely have its sales team pounding on a few doors over the next few weeks.

  5. I’m frustrated that British Airways is not doing this. I have a ticket in first for them next week, and they gave me only 2 options, change for $500 fee or only get a refund minus $200 for the refundable part of my ticket… basically this meant I would only get 2K back from a 4K ticket.
    No exceptions! It was insulting. I’m hoping they come out with a better policy like United has done now.

  6. To follow up my comment, I frankly think US airlines are ahead of the game here. And I’m grateful. BA, Lufthansa, Etc aren’t this kind… so far.

  7. Seems like united cannot win with you. They were a leader on getting rid of change fees on new bookings (which others followed) and then quickly followed Delta on eliminating change fees for existing reservations (full travel credit can be applied to multiple future flights if booked on cheaper flight which works for me). It’s a dynamic situation and they are each responding to competitive forces. UA is also giving free changes on schedule changes of more than two hours which you have failed to acknowledge while attacking the 25 hour refund change.

  8. @Gord.
    Well the United 25 hour refund change is indeed beyond ridiculous. That one is hard to defend…. I just hope it gets changed back to the old 2 hour rule once this storm is over.

  9. Understandably United has very long hold times on the phone right now. Maybe I can get some help here quicker. At this point I know United isn’t flat out letting people cancel flights for a refund. I have a flight scheduled for March 23 that I do not want to take anymore. However, I don’t know when I’d like to reschedule it. If I just choose some random date in the future, will I be able to change that again when I better know my true future travel date? Or is it a one time deal? Since I have nearly two weeks before the flight, I’ll probably hold off making any changes until I’m closer to the day, hoping that United will loosen the change policy even more… Maybe even offer refunds.

  10. @SN
    “I frankly think US airlines are ahead of the game here”

    Qatar, Emirates and SIA have just introduced very generous change policies (in Qatar’s case it even seems to include a full reimbursement option).

    My guess is pretty much everyone is going to have to go down this route.

  11. @Josh if the fare is lower you’ll get issued an electronic travel certificate for the balance that usually expires a year from issue (but sometimes it’s a year from original ticket purchase date.) Not a refund, but not a full forfeit.

    @Jeff you ought to be able to cancel your ticket, and the value will just remain assigned to that locator. Normally, when you’re ready to book, you’d then pay $200 to effectively release the value of the ticket and perform the change — now it sounds like that will be $0 instead. Of course, you should ask to clarify.

  12. Maurice says
    March 10, 2020 at 5.15 pm.

    I am due to travel Mar. 16, 2020 returning mar. 23, 2020. How do I cancel and how much time do I have to rebook.

  13. @SN
    I’m in the same boat. BA Gold. Called Gold desk to cancel our 3/17 outbound due to meeting cancellation due to Covid-19. Waited 25 mins to reach live agent. Was told that I could cancel get ‘refund’ to credit card – less $400 x2/tix OR rebook, paying BA $500 per tix + fare increase. Plus travel would need to occur 1 yr fm original (Oct 2019) purchase date. #BritishAir doesn’t care even after BBC News reported that BA LHR baggage handler tested positive for Covid-19. US Airlines are trying.

  14. Currently, according to @United on Twitter you can not change your flight online (the new policy allowing fee waivers for tickets bought before March 3) without fee waiver.
    You have to call in and wait for however long on hold. This is really ridiculous that a “modern company” United Airlines can not do these fee waivers online.

  15. As usual United is copying but their heart isn’t really in it. In order to cancel your previously booked flights, the travel needs to begin after March 9, whereas other airlines (Delta) are including flights from when events started to be cancelled — March 1 for example. United, you’re going to get a government bailout, why penalize your best customers.

    I don’t yet hate you, but I could.

  16. @Robert I have an itinerary March 31 dep – April 22 ret. When I accessed my itinerary online, there was a notice re the revised waiver policy for flights through April 30. I “tried” both canceling the trip and changing dates of the flights, and in both instances, it appeared my changes would have completed if I accepted the changes. No change fees would have been assessed. I am 1K status, though, so don’t know if this would have made a difference in ability to do this online.

  17. Just this week I booked a flight, I kept asking for a cheaper flight they told me to lock in the price I was offered cause once it goes up I’ll have to pay it.
    Now 2 days later the tickets are half price…
    Is this the game they play, they told me the prices will go up, not down..

  18. Sounds good, but I have a ticket that qualifies and neither the iOS app nor the web interface will waive the fee – both want another $300 from me. Hold time is 90+ minutes when I call. How is this good?

  19. I just cancelled my upcoming United flight with no incurred costs, and received credit equal to my trip cost. In the fine print of my flight credit: “Change fees will apply when you use the remaining future flight credit.”

    Seriously United?

  20. HOW were you able to cancel it? I have tried multiple times and it refers me to the customer service line,, which then says they cant take your call. grrr

  21. United just changed its tone again:

    Brett Snyder
    Good news – @united is now allowing refunds due to schedule change if it’s a 6 hour change or more, not 25

    3:06 PM – Mar 12, 2020
    Twitter Ads info and privacy

  22. My issue with the United policy is that you need to rebook within 12 months of the initial ticket issuance. I booked my flight (scheduled for next Wednesday) in May of last year – it makes no sense to rebook for this May. No options when I talked to United yesterday. I am hoping this changes.

  23. Ben, can you tell me whether I can re-book later after cancelling my United flight? I can’t get through to Orbitz or Hertz to get the answer so I’m hopeful that they’ll honor our tickets when we book after this situation abates (rather than having to know right now when I could travel later this year). Thanks for filling us in on that. Bar Scott

  24. We have been in Hawaii since 2/22 on husband’s congrats you’re retired! trip and due to fly home March 23. We booked with miles. With talk of travel bans and such we wanted to move up our flight to leave sooner, but United’s “change reservation” tab not giving me any options for all the dates for the upcoming week are unavailable. Any suggestions ?

  25. We are just getting screwed by United Airlines AGAIN! We were going to a Graduation the first week of May and booked in the middle of Feb. Because our flight is after April 30 we do not qualify. At this point I see NO WAY it will be safe to truly travel in May. They moved us to other flights in the past without notice when the original flight was still a valid flight and changed our seat assignments when we paid for the seat other places on the plane without refund or notice until we got our boarding passes.
    I am leaning to NEVER using United Airlines again if there is ANY OTHER option.

  26. When cancelling with the COVID-19 policy, United offers to options:
    1) apply value to electronic travel certificate, or
    2) rebook later with future travel credit
    In searching their site I don’t see any guidance or pros/cons between the two — do you have any additional insight? Trying to decide which to choose as we cancel an international trip originally booked for late April. Thank you!!

  27. I just cancelled mine as well and had the same dilemma. Eventually decided to go for the electronic certificate as that is valid to be redeemed until 1 year from date of issue and it says that one can use it multiple times until the entire value gets depleted.
    Note that the e-certificate is redeemable only towards transportation on any flight operated by United Airlines, Inc. or UnitedExpress. Otherwise, it is not valid on flights operated by other airlines, including United marketed codeshare and StarAlliance flights. Good luck!

  28. I had the same decision to make but I decided to call them. I made sure they acknowledge on the phone that I would get my refund after one year without using the credit. They told me I could ask for a refund exactly one year after I bought my tickets.
    Hope it helps

  29. We are due to travel in August through United and we are contemplating cancelling our flights and travelling next year.
    1. The flight has cost 1400 and they are giving us a credit of 1200 With no explanation of why ( thought until end April no fees apply )

    2. When looking at cancelling flight and receiving credit it’s saying to rebook “change fees may apply” unless you have a change waiver ?

    Has anyone had any experience of cancelling existing flights , moving them and the associated fees during this current period?

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